2013-02-22 / Front Page

Making History

New high school topped off with final steel beam
By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer


South Portland Mayor Tom Blake, left, signs his name on the final steel beam of the $40 million high school building project at the high school’s “topping off” ceremony on Friday, Feb. 15. Blake said it was a “special privilege” to put his name next to high school principal Jim Holland’s. Holland resigned last week in a surprise to many parents and staff. (Jack Flagler photo) South Portland Mayor Tom Blake, left, signs his name on the final steel beam of the $40 million high school building project at the high school’s “topping off” ceremony on Friday, Feb. 15. Blake said it was a “special privilege” to put his name next to high school principal Jim Holland’s. Holland resigned last week in a surprise to many parents and staff. (Jack Flagler photo) SOUTH PORTLAND – As the final steel beam was raised to complete the structure that will become the new South Portland High School on Friday, Feb. 15, students, teachers, school and city officials gathered to listen to speeches commemorating the milestone in the building project.

The speakers delivering those speeches had to raise their voice slightly over a banging and sawing sound that could be heard inside. South Portland High School Building Committee Chairman Ralph Baxter said that noise came from crews “roughing out” the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system inside what will be the school’s new kitchen.

The students and teachers took a break from their school day for the ceremony, but not the crews from PC Construction working on the project.

Baxter said that work ethic has helped the construction crews catch up on a project that started off behind schedule as it got out off the ground. When Baxter stopped by the school on Feb. 9 to work on sets he is designing for the high school’s upcoming musical production, he found the crews working in the middle of a blizzard.
Students, residents, city officials and high school staff signed a steel beam before a crane lifted it into the air to complete the shell of the new South Portland High School. The beam was decorated with an evergreen tree and an American flag in what PC Construction officials called an “ancient building tradition.” (Jack Flagler photo) Students, residents, city officials and high school staff signed a steel beam before a crane lifted it into the air to complete the shell of the new South Portland High School. The beam was decorated with an evergreen tree and an American flag in what PC Construction officials called an “ancient building tradition.” (Jack Flagler photo)

“They were hanging steel and shoveling snow at the same time,” Baxter said.

Students, teachers, school board officials and residents gathered behind the new wing beside a snow-covered Martin Field with Sharpies to sign the final steel beam, decorated with a the school’s interlocking S.P. logo, a small evergreen tree, and an American flag.

A crane hoisted that beam to the top of the new structure and two crew members put it in place to complete the external shell of the $40 million building project scheduled to finish in June 2015.

PC Construction Project Executive Joe Picoraro, a South Portland resident, said the building project is “not even quite at the 50-yard-line yet, but as you can see, the building is.”

The remaining work will take place inside, closed off from the elements, as the workers finish up framing, drywall and other interior features. Picoraro said the building project is now about one day behind schedule, which he hopes will be made up this summer.

South Portland Superintendent of Schools Suzanne Godin commended the high school students for “working tirelessly” to ensure the building project didn’t disrupt day-to-day classroom activities, and thanked PC Construction for donating the S.P. logo on the side of the building, which was originally going to be cut to keep the cost of the project down.

South Portland High School Principal Jim Holland did not speak publicly, although he was present at the ceremony. Holland abruptly announced his resignation last week after a year and a half at the school, effective in June.

Mayor Tom Blake thanked Holland for his work on the project. Blake said he hopes Holland will return in two years to see the completed version of the new high school that that the principal has been such a key part of since it’s inception.

“It’s a special privilege to put my name next to Jim Holland’s,” Blake said.

PC Construction crews broke ground on the building project in May, after residents passed a 2010 referendum to fund the renewal of the high school. Three years prior to the successful bond measure, in 2007, voters defeated a $56 million renovation plan. Blake said it was “not an easy road” to the topping off ceremony on Friday, but it taught students and residents alike a lesson about perseverance.

“The greatest things we have in life are sometimes the most difficult to come by,” he said.

Return to top